# Nails's page

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Wow, these are way cool. I'll bet they add a whole new level of immersion to the game. Bravo!

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My answer to the 'why can't I set up my own shop and sell for 100%' question has always been this:

Sure you can. Hand me your character sheet, you are now an NPC shop keeper. Roll up a new character to join the party. Your old NPC will buy your items for 50%.

D20pfsrd.com wrote:

Exploit Weakness (Ex)

At 4th level, as a swift action, a martial artist can observe a creature or object to find its weak point by making a Wisdom check and adding his monk level against a DC of 10 + the object’s hardness or the target’s CR. If the check succeeds, the martial artist gains a +2 bonus on attack rolls until the end of his turn, and any attacks he makes until the end of his turn ignore the creature or object’s DR or hardness. A martial artist may instead use this ability as a swift action to analyze the movements and expressions of one creature within 30 feet, granting a bonus on Sense Motive checks and Reflex saves and a dodge bonus to AC against that opponent equal to 1/2 his monk level until the start of his next turn.

This ability replaces ki pool.

My question is in the line "by making a Wisdom check and adding his monk level against a DC of 10 + the object’s hardness or the target’s CR."

Is that:

DC 10 + the object's hardness or the target's CR. (If the object's hardness is 5 the CR of the check is 15. If the creature's CR is 5 the DC of the check is 15)

or

DC 10 + the object's hardness, or the target's CR. (If the object's hardness is 5 the CR of the check is 15. If the creature's CR is 5 the DC of the check is 5)

Walk without rhythm.

"I am going to cram my boot so far up your ass that it will explode hard enough for Aroden to feel it!"

You can get some cheap magic goggles to take care of the problem.

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic-items/wondrous-items/wondrous-items/e-g/goggl es-glarecutter

I houseruled the way the ARG works. I have a VERY mini-max happy player who has cooked up some pretty broken homebrew races using the ARG.

The new rule is this: If you want to play an ARG unique race that's fine. You write up a paragraph about their culture and biological features without using any in game crunchy terminology. Then I as the GM create that race using the ARG.

Not sure what to tell you. I'm playing, not GMing, so I don't have a good look behind the screen.

We've got a ninja in our party and probably 50% of our total party damage comes from him. Between Vanishing Trick and Shadow Clone he rarely ever takes a hit and I haven't seen many monsters that are crit/SA immune.

We're on book 4, to the best of my recollection book 3 was all about oni, hobgoblins, monstrous wilderness encounters, etc. What exactly are you running into that's sneak attack immune? Could it be that your GM is tweaking things? Well, I guess there was the storm sorceress chick, but she presents the same issues to any melee character.

There's not much you can do if you GM is just making up crit immune encounters, but most of the other stuff you can fix with tactics and party composition. Do you have a reliable flanking partner? If you don't have someone beefy in your group distracting monsters while you backstab them you may want to pick up Improved Feint. That will also help with humanoid enemies that are immune to flanking due to Improved Uncanny Dodge and isn't gear dependent.

Are you TWFing? That can boost rogue/ninja dpr considerably. And as a ninja you can skimp on defense and topload your offense while you rely on vanishing trick and shadow clones to keep you up.

I'd say yea. Most drugs are just very specific or very mild poisons that affect the brain in a specific way. And most drugs work exactly the same as ingested poison (save DC, onset period, ability damage, etc).

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The Lopper's attack is a touch attack that deals 1d6 negative energy damage and 1d6 bleed damage.

It is an attack, but that doesn't change the damage type (negative energy).

The Dhampyr character will not be damaged by the negative energy portion of the attack (in fact he will be healed by it) but he does take the full bleed damage, and in fact will continue to take the bleed damage each round after the attack.

In an interesting twist the NEXT time he takes a hit from the lopper he automatically gets healed by the negative energy portion (which cures bleed) and then the bleed gets immediately re-applied.

The Crossbowman fighter archetype has two class features; Deadshot, which allows him to add 1/2 his dexterity bonus (minimum +1) to his damage roll when he attacks as a readied action; and Greater Deadshot, which allows him to add his dexterity bonus (minimum +1) to his damage roll when he attacks as a readied action.

Does a Crossbowman that attacks as a readied action add 1x his dexterity bonus to damage or 1.5x his dexterity as a readied action?

Also, each ability has a minimum +1 bonus to damage. Does a Crossbowman add +2 to his damage even if his dex mod drops to +0 or less?

Bandanna of False Ass Kicking

Aura strong enchantment

Description

The Bandanna of False Ass Kicking a thin strip of cloth designed to be tied around the head. It is dully colored with a sloppily stitched device on the forehead depicting a hand grasping a chicken by the neck.

When a character picks up or examines a Bandanna of False Ass Kicking they must make a DC 16 will save. If the character fails the save they perceive the Bandanna as a deep, royal red with the figure of a dragon dropkicking a tiger over a rainbow while several busty and scantily clad females look on adoringly. They are also filled with certainty that if the bandanna is worn it will confer absolute mastery of unarmed combat.

While the Bandanna of False Ass Kicking is worn the user loses the Improved Unarmed Strike feat (if they possess it) and becomes unable to use any natural attacks. Whenever the wearer encounters a character that they perceive as a threat they must succeed at a DC16 will save or immediately challenge that character to a fist fight. In addition the wearer must make a DC16 will save every 1d6 minutes or immediately bellow "I KNOW KUNG-FU!" at the top of their lungs.

Ya know that part where Galdana's presence is supposed to prevent the players from AOEing willy nilly in the Grey Friar fight? Yeah, faulty logic there.

Players: A mass of ju-ju zombies disguised as the count? I fireball 'em!

GM: If you do that you'll surely kill the real count Galdana.

Players: You mean the count Galdana who's the heir of the whispering tyrant, whose very existence makes his resurrection possible? Oh yea, I fireball the S~&# out of those zombies.

My party was low on resources so they planned to bust in, kill the count, then retreat. They wound up winning the fight anyway but the goal wasn't to rescue Galdana, it was to kill him.

When you're building be sure to look into feats like Iron Will, Great Fortitude, and Toughness. The idea of leveling up an NPC to match the party is dual: To not die to the higher level encounters, and to not outshine the player characters. Focusing on defensive and non-flashy feats helps both.

In my game all 4 NPCs succumbed to 'forgotten npc syndrome' pretty much immediately. They're there, but we haven't heard word one from Koya, Sandru, or Shalelu since we left sandpoint. We've interacted with Ameiko probably five times, and each time we got a wooden 'whatever you guys want to do will be best'.

Mainly the game has been a PC centric 'Road to Singapore, Morocco, Hongkong, Minkai', starring Umbabu the barbarian as Bob Hope, Varius the rogue and Bing Crosby, Gimble the bard as Dorothy Lamour, a string of identical sorcerer triplets (he keeps dying), and guest starring Nathroc the cleric (whenever his player shows up).

Also starring Beardaxe, the worst paladin ever.

Which I'm actually fine with. Ameiko isn't the star of the show, she's more of a plot point. Hell, I'm sure our GM didn't know this at the time but given the way our group is playing it probably would have been better to make one of the PCs secretly the Ameratsu heir and forget Ameiko entirely. I feel it's better to keep the players the star of the show and miss out on a little drama than feel like a GMPC is really the star, and we're all just sidekicks.

I've had problems with that in past games.

My party used it all the time, even after Harrowstone.

Even if the Big Five are defeated and gone Harrowstone is still a hotbed of paranormal activity. Even if isn't the Lopper per-se some wandering mook spirit who happens to be in the area can give exposition. Such limited exposition as the ouija board is able to provide, that is, what with the one word answers and all.

I my game Judge Dramid deputized the PCs, got them badges and everything. As official court appointed representatives they were free to investigate the swamp, that deserted village with the ghosts, and the burned out asylum.

When they got to the chemical plant it was the dead of night so they left someone to watch the building and beat feet over to the Judge's house and woke her up to get a search warrant. As soon as they got attacked by the unlicensed flesh golem at the gate they had all the probably cause they needed to kick in the doors and dungeon crawl that mother hubbard.

That said, you don't need to conform the game to the American legal system. How would that sort of thing work in Germany? Or more importantly, how would that sort of thing work in Ustalav? The answer is: whatever way is most fun and convenient for your game.

What ECL is the party? You mention goblins so I'm guessing pretty low.

The main tactical feature of a bridge is that it acts as a choke point, only letting one person fight at a time. Luckily for your party 5 out of 6 of them are ranged characters.

A clever goblin would weaken the ropes on the other side and wait until the party is half way across, then jump out and cut the ropes, cackling madly. That's not a great encounter for a low level party though, partly because it's boring and partly because it boils down to a party wide save or die.

Spot the goblin Y/N? Spot the frayed ropes Y/N? Reflex save to grab the bridge as it falls Y/N? If no to all 3 then tpk. Not fun.

Here's my encounter idea:

The PCs approach from the eastern road and get perception checks. On a pass they see someone struggling in the upper windows of the tower. As they get closer whoever is in the tower notice them and a high pitched feminine scream for help rings out (adventurers are suckers for damsels in distress).

As they rush across the bridge some goblins (or one big, meat shield-ey enemy) boils out of the tower and makes a beeline to the bridge to block the party's progress. At the same time two archer goblins hit the bridge with flaming arrows.

Tell the PCs they have 3ish rounds until the bridge burns through and breaks. Then they have a tense, kick ass combat on a rickety narrow bridge that's on fire where all the casters have to make concentration checks because of the swaying, flames, and smoke, and the figther toes it with some brute or other.

This looks like a job for E6!

It's kind of like the Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock version of Pascal's Wager.

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My players reacted really positively to Kendra so I kept her around. Most of the big changes I made started around Book 5 and continued into Book 6 so they may not be that helpful if you aren't planning on running the whole AP.

Introducing Adivion early is the best thing to do by all accounts.

- I replaced Vrood with Adivion entirely. He escaped from Feldgrau in Book 2 by blowing up the floor and dropping the PCs into the basement of the tower while he escaped. This did a good job of establishing him as the big bad early on, built some animosity, and made him more visible to the PCs.

- At the end of Book 1 Kendra decided to accompany the party to Leipdstat to attend the university there, mainly so that she could stick around in the adventure and get some more face-time with the PCs throughout Book 2.

- The Order of the Palatine Eye and the Knights of Ozem are both the remnants of the Shining Crusade, the research and militant arms respectively. I made 'em less scholarly and more like that secret anti-monster place under the Vatican in that flick Van Helsing.

- At the end of Book 2 Kendra takes her leave of the PCs as they depart Leibstat, they are tracking the whispering way to the the hunting lodge in Book 3 and she is traveling to Caliphas to continue her studies.

- Books 3 and 4 were pretty much as written.

- Kendra takes the place of Abraun Chalest in Book 5. Since she left the group she has become an initiate of the Palatine Eye to follow in her father's footsteps.

- Lucean Galdana and Edjurius Mott were basically merged into the same character, a powerful Count with ties to the monarchy and a powerful standing army. He's the head of the Order in Caliphas and he's dedicated to helping the PCs any way he can. He's helpful and friendly instead of an obstructive jerk.

- After they get Ramoska out of hock with the vampire king he tells the party that the Carrion Crown elixir is intended for only one recipient, the final living heir of the Whispering Tyrant. He also tells the party that he doesn't know who that is but his tomb can be found in St. Lymerin Abbey.

- When they boot the witches out of the abbey the party finds an inscription on the tomb listing the paladin-generals of the shining crusade and providing the following details: The only reason the Whispering Tyrant was defeated all those years ago was that one of his human generals, his son, turned to the side of good and betrayed him, opening the way for the Crusade to take Gallowspire. The name of the general is scratched at the bottom of the inscription: Antillos Lorrimor, Kendra's ancestor.

- When they get back to town they found out that Kendra has been kidnapped and whisked off to Renchurch. Galdana says that if the whispering tyrant is awoken it's curtains for the undead-free world. He'll gather his troops but that will take time, the party should make a beeline or Renchurch and try to rescue Kendra.

- They do, and the first half of book 6 happens.

- Then Galdana arrives at the head of a big ass army, the largest Ustalav has ever seen. The Whispering Tyrant's return is past the godzilla-threshold for the whole country so they pulled out all the stops, this is truly the second Shining Crusade. It's a good thing too, because Adivion chugged the CC Elixir right after he got word that the PCs sacked Renchurch and has been animating an equally big ass army of undead at Adorak.

- The Shining Crusade launches a full out assault on Adorak with the PCs at the head. The big scary dragon dude is wrecking the army's business and the PCs have to take him down. But even with the dragon gone the negative energy storm centered on Gallowspire is bolstering the undead army, the good guys can't hope to win.

- The PCs cut their way to the tower, fight their way to the top, find Adivion, kick his ass, and toss him off the edge. The storm abates, the good guys wrap up the undead army, everything is hunky dorey.

Just watched the second Hellboy flick. The fae prince dude is probably the kickass-est depiction of a dex/finesse fighter ever.

What's a good way to model his extending spear thingie in game terms? Transformative weapon seems like a step in the right direction but it doesn't really do exactly that, for instance you couldn't change it from a shortspear to a longspear since one is a one handed weapon and the other is a two handed weapon. Is it totally game breaking to be able to switch between reach and adjacent with a weapon?

How would you price the weapon quality Extending? +1? +2? Fixed cost?

Extending
Price: ???
Aura: Moderate Transmutation
CL: ???
This special quality can only be applied to two handed melee weapons. As a swift action the weapon gains the Reach special quality. Another swift action can be spent to return the weapon to its original size.

My group is playing Jade Regent right now and it's a blast, highly recommended. Simple, direct, and it has the classic Lord Of The Rings-ian long, epic overland journey schick going for it.

Pro tip: ignore the caravan rules. They have a sub optimal math-to-fun ratio.

ITT: Babby's first deontological vs consequentialist debate.

Also far more classes get medium armor than get heavy armor and breast plate is the best medium armor you can get.

Pick up Dazing Assault. Ideally you CAGM, they try and whack you, you daze them, and you never eat a hit ever.

Beast totem is good for the natural armor.

If you aren't an Invulnerable Rager be sure you pick up Extra DR. In fact, if you ARE an invulnerable rager be sure you pick up improved DR.

And look into Come And Get Me barbarian, it's a great defensive build.

I'm playing a Beast Totem barbarian which gives me two claw attacks. My BAB is +9, which means I get an iterative attack with my greatsword.

Can I drop my sword in the middle of a full attack and take my natural claw attacks after my main and iterative attacks?

If so what bonus am I at?

+9 greatsword/+4 greatsword/+9 claw/+9 claw
or
+9 greatsword/+4 greatsword/+4 claw/+4 claw?

The higher level your game goes the wider disparity between a CR's theoretical challenge to a party and its actual challenge, either too easy or too hard.

A high level party will blow through your BBEG in 1 round pretty much every time in a straight up numbers game. Creating challenging encounters is more about enemy troop composition and tactics than the power of the enemies in CR.

That's basically the entire definition of what a vanilla Bard is.

Human Fighter
Human Ranger
Human Wizard
Elven Ranger
Dwarven Fighter
Halfling Commoner
Halfling Commoner
Halfling Expert
Halfling Rogue

If you're a wizard or other caster you have tons of good options.

Use Hypnotism or Charm Person to con people into handing over a bunch of their money.

By casting Forced Quiet you become the greatest babysitter in the land.

You could use Seducer's Eyes to land yourself a sugar momma.

You could use Ant Haul, Communal and hire yourself out to construction sites to super-charge production.

You use be a drug dealer, sell spells like Moment of Greatness or Mad Hallucination to sell wicked highs.

Mathwei ap Niall wrote:
Kryptik wrote:
Nearyn wrote:

As a person who will soon be looking into creating my own undead, I'm wondering how you have attained that amount of controllable undead?

-Nearyn

Certainly.

Cleric Level 8.

Cast Deathknell (Add 1 ECL, lasts 10 minutes/HD of the creature killed)

Cast Deathwine (Add 3 ECL, using a Potion of Cure Serious Wounds)

Cast Desecrate on the area.

Cast Animate Dead (Normally 2 HD/caster level but on Desecrated ground it is 4HD/caster level. 4x16=64.

There are also a number of other ways to increase your ECL such as Mage's Tattoo (+1 ECL), Spell Specialization (+2 ECL), the Karma Bead from a Strand of Prayer Beads (+4 ECL for 10 minutes), and I am sure there are other ways out there if you dredge the depths of the internet.

But a modest build at level 8 will get you 64.

Yeah, that will let you ANIMATE that many undead but it won't let you control that many. Once your ECL drops back down to normal you'll be limited to controlling 48 hd worth with the rest becoming uncontrolled.

What are you going to do to keep control of the other 16HD of undead?

If you don't care too much about collateral damage you could do the good ol' Plague Zombie trick.

Get a big cage, put some plague zombies in there, then whenever you beat someone just tie 'em up and toss 'em in the zombie pit. Plague zombies kill 'em, they rise as plague zombies themselves, and the whole process doesn't cost you anything except the onyx stones for the original couple zombies. Then you just use Command Undead to cut a couple of them out of the herd whenever you want some minions.

Or, when you've got adventurers on your doorstep, you unleash the horde. Sure, you aren't controlling them, but they'll eat the adventurers anyway.

Spoiler:

The first book takes place over the course of a month with plenty of downtime and lots of time to craft.

The 2nd book takes place over 3 days of heavy adventuring. No time to craft.

The 3rd book takes anywhere from three days to a week depending on how long it takes the PCs to piss off the villain of the book. No time to craft.

The 4th book is a chase with the party hot on the heels of an enemy, trying to reach him before he completes a nefarious goal. No time to craft.

The 5th book takes place in a city hunting down an elusive villain. PCs are encouraged to catch him as fast as possible but there is a moderate amount of time for crafting.

The 6th book is an all out assault on Mordor. PCs will be isolated and away from towns and resources, making crafting difficult.

Don't take crafting feats, you won't see much use out of them.

D20pfsrd.com wrote:
You can take a 5-foot step as part of your readied action, but only if you don't otherwise move any distance during the round.

Does this mean that as a caster or an archer I can continuously avoid attacks from melee characters by readying actions with the trigger "When he ends his movement?"

1. On my initiative I stay put and ready an action to cast/shoot at target melee character (or trigger my readied action on "the first melee character to end his movement adjacent to me").

2. His initiative. He charges or moves up to me. His movement ends, my readied action triggers, I step away and shoot at him. His movement is now over and I am not in range of a melee attack.

This seems exploitative and meta-gamey to me but it looks legal as far as I can tell. Of course it only works in a theoretical 1v1 situation, and it breaks down if he has a backup ranged weapon, but in this theoretical situation does that combo work to deny melee characters their attacks by abusing the readied action system?

If you want to play a high mobility character who uses that mobility to his advantage I'd recommend going Fighter or Free Hand Fighter just because you're going to need LOADS of feats.

STR - high
DEX - at least 13
CON - mid
INT - At least 13
WIS - low
CHA - low

Dodge
Mobility
Spring Attack
Combat Expertise
Improved Trip
Greater Trip
Improved Disarm
Greater Disarm

Combat Reflexes
Improved Unarmed Strike
Vicious Stomp
or start multi-classing into monk once you have your feat bases nailed down for the kung-fu and the increased move speed.

Your combat tactics are: Pick the scariest enemy in the pack who you want to lock down. You Spring Attack in (not provoking from him and using your amazing Acrobatic prowess to avoid provoking from his allies) and Trip. If he goes down you get a free attack which you use to Disarm. Then you spring attack back out and cackle madly.

So you keep the theme of high-mobility, you don't do a lot of damage but you are very combat viable especially if you have some big dumb idiots with two handed swords and heavy armor in your group to mop up after you.

And if your GM is on-board with your concept and is committed to helping you execute it enemies will waste their actions running after you and trying to grab you instead of fighting your allies or killing your squishy casters.

I'd say no.

Spells like Burning Hands and Fireball note specifically that they set flammable materials on fire. Scorching Ray doesn't mention setting things on fire at all in the spell description but a spell clarification from the Skull and Shackles Player's Guide states that it does not.

In addition Flame Strike notes that half of its damage is fire damage and half is holy damage, but does start fires unless the unattended object rolls a 1 on its saving throw (Again, Skull and Shackles Player's Guide).

Heavenly Fire is specifically noted as divine damage, not fire damage, and is not subject to fire resistance.

Does using the Step Up feat interrupt a readied action?

I move up to a caster and ready an action to attack him if he casts a spell. If he stays right there and casts I get an AoO for casting plus my readied action. If he casts defensively and succeeds I get no AoO but I do get my readied action.

What if he five foot steps?

He takes a 5 foot step Step Up triggers and I follow him, but does that interrupt or invalidate the readied action that I held to whack him?

If you don't have Improved Trip does tripping on an AoO provoke an AoO in return?

If two characters with Combat Reflexes but not Improved Trip tried to trip each other what would happen?

Hmmm, maybe my GM tweaked the encounter.

Everyone that we met at the farm attacked us, we slaughtered them to the last man, looted the house, then burned it to the ground.

Our party is predominantly lawful good.

I'd say free hand fighter into duelist. Put your points into imp unarmed to get up to crane style and you can be a duelin, attack deflecting badass.

Wait, didn't OP mention that his fictional giant had Awesome Blow?

Awesome Blow isn't an attack, it's a combat maneuver, which crane style doesn't work against.

Any time one of my players stacks a ridiculous amount of AC or uses a defensive option like crane style I just shrug. Let them have their fun. YOU GON GIT GRAPPLED, SON!

Ah, so the pull is more of a contingency. Still a bit redundant but not useless. Basically the baddie gets to roll more dice per turn to do nasty stuff to the players, which is always good. Or bad, depending on which side of the screen you're on.

Or let's just say it's more interesting.

The best solution I've found to allow players a unique and creative exotic race while curbing rule abuses is this:

My players write up a paragraph or two about the race. What their strengths and weaknesses are, where they live, what their society is like, what they look like, etc. Then I as the GM fill in the crunchy rule bits that reflect that. They get to be the cool race with the cool bits that they want and I get to control how much those cool bits affect the in game rules.

You play as ex-convict demon worshiping terrorists.

That's pretty evil.

I was looking at the monster entry for a Hangman Tree (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/plants/hangman-tree) and it lists both Grab and Pull on its vine attack.

If it hits with its vine attack does it get to make both a grab and a pull combat maneuver check or does it have to pick one? If it succeeds on its grab isn't the pull completely redundant since grappling a creature automatically places them in a square adjacent to you?

That all goes back to what hitpoints actually represent. To my mind it's plot armor, not actual physical toughness. If you're level 1 or level 10 getting stabbed in the belly is the same injury unless some pretty hefty changes have been made to your physiology.

An enemy swing that takes off 10 HP doesn't necessarily mean that it physically took a chunk out of your character, it just came THAT much closer breaking through your defenses. A critical hit or the hit that takes you from positive to negative hitpoints is a hit that connected with real force, maybe breaking a bone or severing a limb.

Take Die Hard for example (not the feat). John McClaine is being shot at by drug dealing nazi terrorist hijackers. Two of them shoot and on screen you see both shots miss. Mechanically though, one rolled below his AC and "missed" in game terms. The other hit his AC but the hit wasn't enough to kill him. He isn't shot, his combat abilities aren't hampered at all, in fact he takes zero negative effects for being wounded until his HP drops from 1 to 0. To me that says that HP isn't the actual physical condition of your character, it's how much plot protection he has before the one ringer hits him that lays him out.

So a Cure spell or Breath of Life just restores HP, spells like Regenerate are needed to re-attach severed limbs and mend broken bones. But that's okay, because HP damage doesn't necessarily represent a punctured lung or a broken arm. Really you'd need some kind of penalty system. Like "If you take massive damage roll on the chart to see if you get your noggin cracked or an arm broken or something". Breath of Life could bring them back up, but it couldn't remove the penalty.

But that's a whole other system that would be a mess to implement.

As it is Sunrunnerii is right, RAW BoL would work fine on massive damage victims. I'm just sayin' if you fluff massive damage as getting torn in half or something you might want to consider that when making your call is all. Really it boils down to: As a GM how easy do you want it to be for your party to resurrect each other?

I don't show any mention that Broken is a stacking condition like Shaken or Frightened, but Broken does mean that the object has been reduced to half hitpoints.

This isn't RAW, but I would interpret any item gaining the Broken condition to it losing half its hitpoints. Therefore applying the Broken condition a second time would get rid of the other half of the hitpoints and destroy the weapon.

I don't see massive damage as a death effect.

That said: what really matters is the condition of the body. Massive damage represents a blow powerful enough to kill you WITHOUT chewing through your hitpoints. Nobody is going to survive if you whack their head clean off, no matter how many HD they have. Unlike Resurrection or even Raise Dead, Breath of Life does nothing to change the condition of the body aside from granting it more hit points. Yeah, you could probably Breath of Life someone who died due to massive damage, but they might be brought back sans-head, or cut in half from shoulder to waist, or missing their arm at the shoulder, or torn neatly in half by a dragon bite.

The improved mount selection is a feature granted by you being a lvl 4 beast rider, not your mount being a 5 HD creature. You would have to take four total levels of Cavalier (beast rider) to qualify.

Since your character is Paladin 4/Cavalier 1 your total character level is 5, but your paladin and cavalier levels do not stack for the purposes of gaining class features unless the class feature specifically mentions it (like getting Uncanny Dodge from two classes, for example).

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